265 Chapter 265

Only I level up

Only I Level Up Recollections/After Stories
Part 1: Beru's memories

Inside a certain egg….
Before he was ready to hatch, Beru heard the voice of the Queen through the thick shell of his egg.
[For the sake of the kingdom.]
'For the sake... of the kingdom.'
[Make all the enemies blocking our path shiver in terror.]
'Make all the enemies blocking our path shiver in terror....'
He needed to become strong.
He simply had to be strong.
That was the very first duty bestowed upon Beru, still sleeping in an embryonic state. And then, the obsession of the Ant Queen wishing to build a prosperous kingdom resulted in the birth of a horrifying monster.
[Kkkieeeehhk!!]
The young soldier ant shattered the eggshell, emerged from the confines, and screeched out loudly. The ominous and terrifying murderous intent oozing out from its two eyes didn't permit any comparison to other ant monsters in existence.
The Queen shuddered. It felt a powerful surge of emotions by this creature born from its efforts.
'If it's this child, then certainly, those humans wielding strange powers will be....'
The Queen's eyes sparkled in anticipation, but even before it could issue a new order to the greatest ant soldier that triumphantly emerged from the egg, Beru felt hungry, so he did what he wanted to do.
Grab.
The wrist of one of the worker ants aiding with the hatching process got grabbed by Beru.
'…..?'
Even before the worker ant could understand what was going on, Beru simply began swallowing and chewing on the hapless monster from its head.
Crunch, crunch….
[….!!]
The Queen was greatly taken by surprise at Beru's unexpected behaviour, but it was suppressed by the powerful aura of the future king of the ants and couldn't even dare to stop him.
Beru managed to erase all traces of its kin from this world in the blink of an eye and stood proudly before his queen. The bodily fluid dripping from his mouth looked rather grotesque.
'The terror of our enemies....'
The thing was, the subject of powerful fear would also have the same effect on his own allies, as well. The Queen belatedly realised this fact and took a look around itself. The brave soldiers of the ant kingdom were shivering in fear.
The emotions they felt were transmitted in full to their Queen, the only one capable of exercising absolute control over them.
The newborn soldier definitely passed the test. As expected of the greatest soldier the Queen had produced – he was truly a masterpiece.
[Become even stronger.]
The Queen issued the next order to Beru, with an eye towards a full-scale invasion of the human's lands.
[Stronger, until none can stand in your way.]

***

Beru proceeded to devour everything on the island. When there was a shortage of food, he didn't even hesitate to devour his own kin. From tiny lifeforms on the ground like worms and larvae, all the way to large fish and aquatic mammals of the nearby ocean….

As Beru voraciously devoured every single life in front of his eyes, a new realisation dawned on him. Whether it be lifeforms possessing fatal poison or creatures with huge bodies, they all quaked in fear upon running into him.
'Survival' was the most basic, as well as the ultimate, goal of all living creatures. But, in front of an absolute being that could easily rip apart that goal into millions of pieces, the looks carried in the eyes of other lifeforms were all roughly the same.
'…...'
Beru got to confirm over and over again that he was indeed at the top of the food chain, and soon, arrived at a certain conclusion.
'I am....'
I am created to be the greatest predator from the very beginning.
In that case….
Beru, submerged deep within the seawater, pushed his head out of the surface. He could see the land at the far end of the undulating ocean waves. A world different from the sea was waiting for him there.
'Just how powerful will those humans be, those that mother is greatly wary of?'
He grew quite curious – curious about if there really were powerful beings that necessitated even a top predator like him to keep a low profile, curious about if his powers would work against them.
He shifted his gaze towards the mainland several times, but...
[It is still too early.]
The Queen was capable of monitoring Beru's thoughts and its resolute voice would always stop him from acting out on his curiosity without fail.
Left with no choice, he vacantly stared at the distant land before slipping beneath the surface of the ocean again.
Indeed, he'd get to know when the time was right.
'…...'
Beru heeded the Queen's orders and waited for the right time to come with bated breath. And eventually, 'they' stepped onto his land.
For the first time ever, Beru was given a chance to test out his true capabilities.
And it….
"What, what the hell are you?!"
"Uwaaaahk!!"
….Wasn't even a fight.
No, it was nothing more than one-sided hunting.
What a familiar sight it was to him.
Beru discovered 'fear' in the eyes of the dying Hunters and couldn't hide his utter disappointment.
'To fight against these weaklings, I...'
I had to wait for such a long time?
There was this smell of fear oozing out from the entire bodies of the prey. Beru got to reconfirm through these human Hunters that he still occupied the top rung in the food chain.
It was a letdown.
And so, as the lifeform standing at the apex of the ecosystem was about to define what he thought of the human race as a whole in his head...
For the first time ever, a human that didn't fear him even when standing face-to-face appeared out of the blue. Beru's heart began viciously pounding away after encountering a situation he had never experienced before.
'This human…. He's not scared of me?'
He felt it'd be somewhat of a loss to kill this human right away, so Beru tried to start a conversation.
"Are you the king of humans?"
When he did, the human replied back.
".....Huh, an insect that knows how to speak. Well, I'll be."

***

Maybe this would be the first time since then that a living creature looked at Beru with eyes that were filled with something other than fear.
Sparkle, sparkle….
'…..'
Beru began shedding cold sweat drops as the young Lord Soo-Hoh, the son of his Sovereign, stared at him with rather hotly-burning eyes. So, he tried to escape from this uncomfortable atmosphere, but then….
"Anty, antyyy!"
He couldn't endure it and flew up in the air, but then….
"Anty, antyyy!!"
The young lord would already be right behind him when Beru took a look behind to make sure.
'…....'
Of course, as long as Beru wanted to, escaping from a toddler would not be an issue, but…. Well, the problem here was that the toddler in question was his king's child.
What if he tried too hard to escape and that ended up harming the young lord somehow? How could Beru even take care of the aftermath, then?
"Antyyy!"
In the end, the responsibilities of looking after young Soo-Hoh alongside the child's mother, Hae-In, fell on Beru's shoulders, not the other Marshals.
"...."
After making sure that Soo-Hoh was asleep, Beru quietly returned to the 'territory of eternal rest'.
He slid silently into the shadow, and the world of infinite darkness spread out right before his eyes. Some people might call this place scary, but for Beru, this world under his liege's authority was a rather comfortable place to be.
While he made his way over to where the ant army resided, Beru fell into a deep pool of thoughts.
'Why does our young lord continuously seek me out?'
….He just couldn't figure this one out.
He had always been the object of fear, and he felt that that fact hadn't changed even now. This question suddenly invading his head proved quite difficult to resolve, so Beru changed his destination. What could be more helpful in understanding the mindset of a human than a human's opinion on the matter?
His liege didn't like using humans as Shadow Soldiers, so there were almost no soldiers who started off as humans, but...
But, rather fortunately, there was one soldier Beru knew that started his life as a human. It was none other than Marshal Igrit.
"There is no way that our young lord will hate you."
[…..??]
Igrit nodded his head and rapidly added further explanations.
"Here is an ant walking around that's much bigger than a person. It can fly and it can even talk, too. Just which child wouldn't like that?"
[…....]
Well, that was a fresh take on the matter, which he didn't consider before.
Beru headed back to the area occupied by the ant army while carefully digesting what Igrit had told him.
'The young lord likes me because I'm bigger than a person, I can fly, and I can even speak.'
If a person could like something with such simplistic reasons, then wouldn't that person also easily fall out of love with something with equally simplistic reasons, too?
Well, he certainly hadn't heard of humans liking bugs after entering their adulthood. When his thoughts reached that far, his mood seemed to sink just a little bit.
He was familiar with others looking at him with gazes of revulsion, but when thinking about how the young lord would also one day carry such a gaze, Beru grew just a little bit sad.
'…..'
Beru flying silently changed his heading once more. His new destination this time was the location of a certain construction project.
The bearded Dwarves and ant soldiers were ordered by Beru to construct a gigantic stone statue of their liege within this place, the 'territory of eternal rest'. When they saw the former ant king land near their vicinity, they all bowed their heads in unison.
The Dwarven Elder in charge of directing the project hurriedly ran over to welcome Beru.
"Marshal-nim, welcome back."
Nod, nod.
Beru observed the progress on the construction for a bit before asking the Elder.
[I wish to change the plan just a little bit.]
"Ehhht?!"
Maybe he felt all the hard work his men had put in would go to waste, the Elder hurriedly tried to dissuade Beru despite feeling rather scared of the former ant king.
"B-but, Marshal-nim, you planned to commemorate Sovereign-nim's upcoming 32nd birthday with this 'Divine Liege' statue, so from a few months ago....."
[No, no, no. I'm not saying I want to cancel the plan itself. I just want to change this part like so....]
The Elder quietly listened to Beru's explanation before nodding his head right away.
"Of course that is feasible. I think we will get a far grander result with this new plan, Marshal-nim."
[Khe-khek, very good.]
The atmosphere that seemed to be frozen for a bit had warmed up considerably now.
"Well, in that case, I should...."
Just as the excited Elder tried to continue on, Beru raised his index finger and placed it against his lips.
[I shall return after taking care of business first.]

***

"Hyung-nim, are we really doing this?"
"You fool…. What is it? You scared now that we came this far?"
"N-no, that's not it, hyung-nim."
A thug glared angrily at his underling sitting on the front passenger seat of the car, and shifted his gaze back to a certain residence over yonder.
It was a two-story private home standing all by itself in a rather deserted suburb, as if the owners wanted to avoid crowded areas.
That place belonged to Detective Seong Jin-Woo.
The thug had it confirmed it multiple times before coming here, so he was sure of it.
"Because of that son of a b*tch Seong Jin-Woo, our organisation got obliterated into thin air. We got hurt real bad by the b*stard, so isn't it only fair that we leave an everlasting mark on him to balance the books??"
"You're right, hyung-nim."
The three underlings replied in a unanimous voice.
Very good.
"Listen well. We are a quartet of common house robbers now. As for the wife and the son of that detective, they got killed by the robbers breaking into their home in the middle of the day. Do you get my drift?"
"Yes, hyung-nim."
A sinister grin formed on the lips of the man they all referred to as 'hyung-nim'.
To think, such a massive house didn't have a single security system – wasn't that exactly like declaring to the world 'Come and swallow us up' while washing their necks?
Indeed, it was a miracle that the house hadn't been burgled yet.
"Stop shaking in your boots and don't make any mistakes."
The thug scanned his underlings and they nodded their heads.
"Let's go."
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
The four males exited the car and cautiously closed the doors. They scanned their vicinity and approached the residence before hurriedly clambering over the walls.
They had rehearsed what they had to several times before, so such a wall didn't pose any problems for these folks.
But then...
...Step!
Only four legs landed back on the ground.
'….Where are the other two?!'
The thug hurriedly looked at the only remaining underling next to him. The latter shook his head.
Four jumped over the wall, yet only two landed back on the ground? What a bizarrely weird thing this was!
The thug quickly studied all around his surroundings, but when he looked to his side again, the remaining underling was gone without a trace, too.
'These sons of b*tches, seriously now...!!'
The enraged thug briefly forgot where he was right now, and was about to roar out at the top of his lungs. But right before that, a hand approached him without being noticed and covered his mouth, hard.
[Shh....]
Right now was the young lord's nap time. It must not be disrupted by a bunch of uninvited guests, no matter what!
Thankfully, Beru's hearing could pick up on the calm, rhythmic breathing of the young lord in the nursery. With a pair of satisfied eyes, he looked diagonally down to his side. The thug caught in his arms was trembling like a lone leaf in the wind.
"Euph.... euph, euphhhh!!"
There it was, that familiar light in the eyes.
The familiar emotion.
Beru certainly enjoyed the unreserved faith his liege had in him, or the young lord's favourable feelings towards him, but this... This, as expected, felt just as good to him. The expressions of the weak prey caught before the glare of a predator would always be like this.
[Kiiik, kiiik.]
Beru didn't hold back and revelled in the intense fear displayed in the thug's eyes, before dragging the hapless victim away and disappearing from view. The screaming vanished very soon after from this world.

***

"What do you think?"
The Elder proudly presented the 'Divine Liege' statue.
This stone statue with their liege's countenance boasted such a humongous scale that, in order to look at its top, one's neck might develop a sprain if one carelessly tilted their head back.
Just to complete this masterpiece before the deadline, not only had every single bearded Dwarf pitched in, but all the ant soldiers also lent their aid.
[Kiikiik.]
Beru studied the statue of his liege with a very satisfied expression before confirming the last-minute change that had been added to it.
"Just as you commanded, Marshal-nim. There it is, on the left shoulder...."
Just like the Elder's explanation, the left shoulder of the liege's statue now played home to the figure of their young lord, sitting there with a bright expression.
The father and his son.
There was no doubt in Beru's heart that his liege would be greatly pleased after seeing this grand and beautiful statue. And also, this statue would prove to be a deeply-meaningful present to the young lord if he ever gets to enter this world in the distant future.
Such certainty prompted Beru to roar out in laughter.
[Kkiiihehehehehet~!!]
Following after the rejoicing Beru, the bearded Dwarves and ant soldiers also burst out into loud peals of laughter.
Wah-hahahahaha!!
"Kkyah-hah!"
He suddenly heard a cheerful cry of a toddler mixed among the raucous laughter.
[….?!]
Beru got stunned out of his shell and hurriedly looked back, only to discover a certain baby sticking close to his back.
"Annty!!"
Ah, ah.....
Should he say, like father, like son?
Seeing the baby Soo-Hoh who could now freely enter the 'territory of eternal rest' before anyone had the chance to notice it, the Marshal in charge of childcare, Beru, could only hold his head in agony.
[Khi-hahk!]

< chapter="" 265=""> Fin.